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The Coldest and Best Semester – Emily Anderson

Emily completed an exchange to HEC Montreal, Canada, in Semester 1, 2017.

I’m currently sitting at the Lima airport waiting for my flight home. I’ve been to 7 countries and 2 continents in the last 6 months, I’ve met some amazing people and shared some great experiences. Whilst sitting here I’m trying to think of what I’m going to say to people when I get home and what advice I can give…
Yes its true, Canadian winters can become -30 degrees celsius with snowstorms occurring on a regular basis and yes, HEC Montreal is a French speaking university. How do I know? I spent four months studying at HEC Montreal, Canada and it was the best four months of my life.

Outside my apartment

Outside my apartment

The most valuable lesson I learnt when coming on exchange was to not let the doubts of others get you down. Everyone would say: “You’re going to be sitting inside the whole time, you can’t go out in that weather” or “Why would you go to a place that cold for exchange”. I can tell you now that you can survive freezing temperatures and even sometimes be warm outside when you’ve put one too many layers on. You don’t stay inside if you’re studying at HEC (in my case my apartment was actually too hot so I didn’t want to stay inside). They constantly have activities organized for you. I took part in the welcome week where I met 200 other exchange students that I now consider some of my closest friends. During this week and during the semester, the colder it got, the more we drank. We partied several nights a week and the best thing was that everyone wore jeans and jumpers out so you didn’t even have to get dressed up! On weekends, weekdays whenever we weren’t in class we were always doing something: travelling to different cities (only a 6 hour bus trip to New York), snow skiing (don’t worry, I could barely stand up at the beginning and now I’m a pro), snowtubing, dog sledding, going to winter music festivals, making snowmen, and so many other things. Even just waking up and walking outside, seeing the snow fall on the trees is an amazing feeling. No one can prepare you for this weather but I can tell you that it is definitely worth it. It is something I will never experience in Australia.

As I said earlier, it is true that there are several snowstorms in Montreal and although my parents were very worried, they are so much fun to experience. My housemates and I got caught in one walking from Walmart to the train station with $200 worth of groceries, bags were breaking, our hands were turning purple, everything was blowing everywhere and we stood there and laughed as a kind taxi driver came and helped us out.
HEC also organizes a spring break to Cuba (best week of my life, all you can eat and drink), returning to Montreal there was a snow storm so the plane had to turn back to Cuba and we got to stay another night in a 5 star hotel until the runway in Montreal was clear for us to land the next day. All you can eat and drink for one more day, missing out on university classes… I definitely wasn’t complaining.

In Cuba!

In Cuba!

HEC Montreal was a French speaking university. In fact, Montreal altogether was French speaking and I knew no French at all. However, I was able to take English courses, and almost everyone in Montreal spoke little to very good English. Sometimes I forgot that i was in a French speaking part of Canada.

My advice if you are thinking about studying in Canada is to choose Montreal. It’s an amazing city with great student life. HEC offers incredible opportunities for you to meet new people and party like you never have before. Don’t let the weather or the French speaking turn you away, if anything let it be the reasons why you choose Montreal!

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